Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hospitality Hiccups

O, how I wish!
During February we had quite a few dinners and lunches with staff on the team that Rowan works with at the uni.  For the majority of the time I don't get to have much contact with our short-term staff members, so inviting them over for a meal is an easy way to meet them and for them to meet me and the kids.

I've always thought hospitality was important.  I grew up in a family where we always had extra people for meals.  It just helps to strengthen relationships and get to know people faster.

In saying I think it is important, I don't think it is a particular gift of mine.  I'm not great at cooking (I've been doing it for a while now, so I CAN do it - I'm just not great at it) and we don't have a beautiful tidy house with a pleasing aesthetic environment.

However, I've always done it.  Wherever we've lived and however small or pokey the surroundings.  I always thought the value of it outweighed the things that weren't ideal.  I've always told myself that it's about the relationship and the time together, not the quality of the food or the beauty of the surroundings.

But doing this last round of meals I started to wonder if that is really true.  Do people find it uncomfortable coming into a house that is mediumly tidy (not immaculately tidy)?  Do they find the unflushed toilet gros?  Do they find the sticky kid's toothpaste smeared on the sink that I didn't quite get to, a bit yucky?  Does our our mountain of unfolded washing just freak people out beyond belief?  Especially people who have been recently married and live in a beautiful apartment with all their new wedding presents and only having to clean up from two people every day of the week?

I do try, but as you saw from my earlier post, life goes on regardless of whether or not we have someone coming for dinner.  I don't mind (well, not too much, just a little bit) if people see the reality of our life - I just don't want them to find the experience horrifyingly uncomfortable.

Hopefully one day when they have five children of their own, they'll feel that they too can invite someone over for a meal, because after all, those crazy Kemps did it in the midst of their madness.  This is my one hope!

7 comments:

rodneyolsen.net said...

I think that one of the greatest threats to hospitality is the awful way that we now feel we need to turn our homes into 'show homes' and cook up some culinary masterpiece just to invite people to dinner.

I don't care if the food is basic and the house is less than shiny, as long as I'm not likely to develop cholera and the company is warm and friendly.

Years ago you could just drop in at someone's home or have friends drop in at anytime. Now, it's only by invitation and it's more about impressing guests rather than enjoying great friendships.

Pip said...

A dose of reality is good. Having children does change your standards of what you expect from others and from yourself.

I distinctly remember visiting my BIL and SIL and their three young kids for dinner when we were newlyweds. Dinner was nice but seemed very loud and a bit crazy. Husband and I decided after that, that we were going to wait a LONG time before having children.

Fast forward 13yrs and our 18yo nephew (one of the kids in the original dinner) stayed with us for two weeks. He commented to my husband that dinner time with our three girls was all a bit crazy and chaotic...and he definitely wouldn't be having kids for a while!!!

Kath said...

I think the relationships are what's important rather than getting everything beautiful.

I've heard it said that someone who has the gift of hospitality doesn't worry about the state of their house (and it might be anywhere from tidy to chaotic) but welcomes people in any state.

Perhaps those overwhelmed by the story of your busy week might find the meal at your place a helpful reality check? I like to give people no illusions that I am anywhere near perfect...

jessica smith said...

Someone was recently telling me that it's often the host who is most aware of the mess and sets the tone for guests as to how much attention to pay to it. So by saying 'sorry about my washing' and 'oops, forgot the toothpaste' etc, you make an issue of it, rather than just being cool that the place is a mess and sending the vibe that this is just how it is and it's okay.

I do find myself apologising for the mess and know that this is shooting myself in the foot if I'm trying to be hospitable as my apology sends the wrong message, will have to try and stop myself....

I love the sound of dinner at your place, being real has to be good for all to see!

Anonymous said...

I agree that usually people don't notice or care about mess as much as we think they do. There have been a few times with good friends that I have noticed more than a 'normal' amount of lived-in mess. Didn't make me uncomfortable; I just offered to fold the washing / do the dishes and my friend in her humility accepted. Obviously you can't do this with people you don't know, and I'd probably be offended if someone I didn't know offered to clean, but it is one of the joys of being vulnerable with each other and not always putting on a brave face. People can't help if they don't know where you're in need.

Deb L said...

Someone once said, "Entertaining is when you try to impress with fancy food. Hospitality is sharing what you have."

Our children are 7, 5 and 2. We can't make dinner time look swish without a great deal of stress before and during someone's visit. Sometimes we put on a good show. Sometimes we just relax and let it be what it is. Sometimes we work around it like inviting people who don't have young kids around for dessert at 8 pm instead of dinner at 6 pm.

Sarah said...

To be honest, I'm too afraid to invite certain friends for dinner because they seem to consider themselves food critics whenever we have gone OUT for dinner so I wonder what on earth they'd think of my humble cooking!